Over the past several weeks I have provided professional development across the country for teachers and related service professionals who work in public schools, private schools, residential treatment programs, and private practices.
During the course of the full day training these professionals gain insights, tools and confidence to work with their students in ways that they had not thought possible before.
I often say that I believe that parents parent out of love and logic but that when they have a complex child their instincts and the tools they have are often not enough. I believe the same can be said of teachers. Most teachers have not received specific education nor training about working with kids with ADHD and/or Executive Function challenges. By and large, I find most teachers are genuinely passionate and caring professionals. Many come to my trainings at their own expense because they truly want to learn ways to support their struggling students.
I am always so grateful to have the opportunity to speak directly to teachers, especially those in the mainstream classroom. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2013), approximately 11% of children 4-17 years of age have ADHD. Most of these children are in the regular education classes. That means that each regular education class probably has at least one child with ADHD in the classroom.
One of the wonderful impacts of doing my trainings in a school district is that there is a shift in the culture of the school. As I have gone back for follow up consultations I am told of how teachers support one another in change and that they feel the environment is calmer.
During my off-site trainings, a different conversation often develops. As my professional training day progresses and professionals begin to see the struggles the kids experience in a new light and that the changes that they want to make really are possible, one question keeps coming up over and over. “How can I help the other teachers ‘Get it’?” And by that, they are referring to the teachers whom they work with who are more resistant to the idea that “Kids do well IF they can” and that their challenging behaviors are not necessarily due to laziness, disrespect, or lack of motivation.
I have often received this question from parents who have struggled with their children’s teachers, however, getting this question from the teachers themselves sheds light on another aspect of the challenge. Just as a parent who is a professional coach, therapist, or educator often gets resistance from their own children when trying to help, teachers find the same problem when they try to “turn-key” my training to then train others on their staff.
Here are a few of the suggestions I, and some of the teachers, have compiled to help open the door to understanding and supporting the kids on a deeper level:
- As is always most important when wanting to propose any change, approach with Empathy, not Judgment. I find when I come from the place of genuinely respecting that others are doing the best they can with the knowledge they currently have, then I am able to be heard when I offer “new, updated” information.
- Be prepared with the research, the science, and the “best practices” to support why you believe your perspective, your strategies, and your proposed changes are justified.
- Start a book club. There are some excellent books that contain information that can update and change the way challenging children are viewed and approached. By having staff jointly read and discuss certain books, positive and often substantial changes can be made. Some books I recommend:
- Lost at School by Ross Greene
- Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers by Haim Ginot
- Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey
- 8 Keys to Parenting Children with ADHD by Cindy Goldrich (okay, I’m biased, but it is an excellent resource for understanding how ADHD impacts learning and behavior)
- Lead by example. Many of the teachers who have attended my workshops through the years have stayed in touch and let me know that as they have made changes, others have noticed and inquired. They have then had the opening to share what they have learned and done to make the positive changes they have made.
- Always remember two of my favorite quotes: “Start with wherever you are and with whatever you have” by Jim Rohn, and “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead.
Please let me know some of the ways you have helped educators make positive changes in how they are approaching and supporting challenging kids. Remember, we all benefit when we have an open mind and approach one another with tolerance, empathy and support.